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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Summer Pest Control for the Midwest

R. L. Rhodes
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This summer, be on watch for these two pests in the Midwestern states.

A Japanese beetle.

Japanese Beetle

There was a time when Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) were primarily an Eastern problem—as in, the Eastern coast of the U.S. They first made landfall on this continent in the early 20th century near a nursery in New Jersey, but have since expanded their territory dramatically. In recent years, they’ve begun appearing on this side of the Mississippi as well, particularly around the Great Lakes but even as far West as Montana. Keep an eye out for this voracious beetle, as the precautions you take now can help fend off its expansion over successive years.

Japanese beetles are small (about half an inch in length) green-bodies beetles. Behind the thorax are tucked a pair of hard, bronze-colored wings, called elytra, which it uses to fly, albeit poorly. They’re fans of many ornamental trees, such as linden and crape myrtle, but may also be found eating away the leaves of roses and a number of edible crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, peas and a wide variety of berries. As grub worms, the larvae of the beetle may be found beneath the surface of your lawn, eating away the roots of your turf grass.

If you notice only a small number of Japanese beetles attacking plants in your garden, you can spray with a soap-water mixture and remove the pests by hand. Large invasions may require a more aggressive treatment, like Spectracide Japanese Beetle sprays and foggers. To eliminate the grubs, you can treat your lawn using milky spore.

Aphids on a rose petal


Aphids are a widespread class of destructive garden pests that can be found on a broad variety of plants. They’re sap-suckers, feeding on the phloem vessels that carry nutrients from one part of the plant to the other. In addition to the damage caused by feeding, aphids can sometimes transmit plant virus that may weaken or kill your plants.

Aphids are identifiable by their soft, pear-shaped bodies, and appear in a variety of colors from green to pink to virtually transparent. Their small size—usually less than 1/8th of an inch, may make them difficult to spot, and often their presence is first detectable by the symptoms of aphid damage. Plants that are stunted, yellowing or mottled should be inspected for pests.

Ladybugs are natural predators of aphids, and can be released in gardens to help curb aphid populations. If you’ve spotted a small infestation of aphids, it may be possible to protect your plants by spraying them with a brisk stream of water a couple of times each week. For more stubborn aphid problems, products containing neem oil are effective.


Japanese beetle: Michael Gil/Flickr
Aphids photo: istolethetv/Flickr

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